Russia’s government tried to seed the 2020 US presidential campaign with “misleading or unsubstantiated allegations” against then-candidate Joe Biden through allies of former President Trump and his administration, US intelligence officials have said.
The assessment was made in a 15-page report into election interference published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday.
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It underscores allegations that Trump’s allies were playing into Moscow’s hands by amplifying claims made against Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the November 3 election. Biden defeated Trump and took office on January 20.
US intelligence agencies found other attempts to sway voters, including a “multi-pronged covert influence campaign” by Iran intended to undercut Trump’s support.
The report also punctures a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies that China was interfering on Biden’s behalf, concluding that Beijing “did not deploy interference efforts”.
“China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught,” the report said.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Washington DC, said the report also said specifically that there was no “technical interference” with voter registration, the voting process or the counting of votes in the November contest.
“Also it found out specifically that unlike 2016 … there was no attempt by Russia to cyberhack the election infrastructure. These are very important differences,” Hanna said.
“What it was, the report says, is all about influence.”
US officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran”.
“We assess that Hizballah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah supported efforts to undermine former President Trump in the 2020 US election,” the report found.
“Nasrallah probably saw this as a low-cost means to mitigate the risk of a regional conflict while Lebanon faces political, financial, and public health crises,” the document stated.
The report also mentioned the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which has an “adversarial relationship with the Trump administration”, as having “intent, though probably not the capability” to influence public opinion.
The report added it had “no information suggesting that the current or former Venezuelan regimes were involved in attempts to compromise US election infrastructure”.
US intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded Russia also interfered in the 2016 US election to boost Trump’s candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.